A great deal has been said recently about the state of arts in Singapore. With the government’s move to create a new Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and various bids in Parliament to provide more support to the arts, there seems to be an awakening of sorts into the types of art Singapore is gearing to produce and the types of art springing up in recent times. Amongst these new initiatives is The HeartThrob Project, a platform set up to display works in its most cathartic form, be it in prose or illustration. Users are able to submit their work to have it featured on the site.

In an interview with Popspoken, The HeartThrob Project founder Jeremy Tan talks about the benchmark art is perceived in Singapore, the commercialisation of art here and how his site aims to place emotion back into such work.

The HeartThrob Project founder, Jeremy Tan

The HeartThrob Project founder, Jeremy Tan

POPSPOKEN: What do you feel lacks in the current platforms we have as art expression in Singapore?

Jeremy: I feel that the arts landscape is being stifled, when faced with the harsh regularities and regimentation in Singapore. The main issue for current platforms is the fact that there are many stringent rules and requirements for one to submit an artwork to be published on a platform. In this sense, art must be met with a certain kind of standard, or criteria; literally a benchmark has been set to differentiate between what society perceives as good art, and what is not.

With lesser restrictions, art is no longer suppressed; which is ultimately what expression of art should embody: the freedom to showcase your craft to public eyes with pride and joy.

Perhaps another flaw in available platforms is the lack of an active community that is willing to critique and provide valuable feedback to help budding artists to improve their craft. Both these elements are what The HeartThrob Project intends to incorporate. We accept raw, unedited submissions and try to build an participative online presence through our project!

PS: What has been the most meaningful submission to you and why does it resonate?

Jeremy: Of course, I have been exposed to many brilliant writers and illustrators on the site ever since we launched the site just a month ago. And this is to say that there are indeed many undiscovered talents in Singapore!

One of the most meaningful submissions would be a poetry from Sirhan Haziq (who is now part of The HeartThrob Project team) titled “A Soul’s True Redeemer”. It speaks deeply about natural human flaws, and how important it is to accept us for who we are: as imperfect beings. The poem encourages strength, and resilience to carry on when we are conflicted, and how God’s grace will rest upon us when there is acceptance of one’s natural being.

PS: With calls by the NAC to boost the commercialisation of the art industry, do you feel unedited, raw work (the ones that THTP encourages) has a place in an arts community that is pushing out more to mainstream tastes? Do you feel such work belongs in the mainstream or does it only serve a niche?

The calls to boost the commercialization of the local arts industry stems from the nation’s desire to develop Singapore into a ‘Renaissance City’. Such motivations cater to an externally oriented movement, whereby global aspirations and economic imperatives form the crux behind this urban cultural policy.

Indeed, commercialization imposes more benchmarks and requirements on art in order to cater to what the majority likes to see. And sadly, only popular art will ride this bandwagon. But one must also note that art is subjective. What might not appeal to one, might appeal to another.

Instead, I believe that there will always be someone out there who appreciates raw, unedited work that is true to the artist’s heart. I feel that art should not be created to please public eyes, but the basis for art should stem from the burning desires of the artist’s heart that demands to be released to the world!

With the immense depth and power that modern Internet wields, such art works would definitely be accessible to more public eyes; not just confined to a local community, but even internationally as well!

At the end of the day, someone out there can actually empathize with what you are trying to communicate. Someone’s heart will throb, because of what you have created. And your influence in the arts will continue to grow and thrive. And thats all that matters, whether good, bad, or popular art.

The Day After Today: a submission by Gong Hua

The Day After Today: a submission by Gong Hua

PS: Have you tinkered with the possibility of cross-collaborative work a la hitRECord from Joseph Gordon-Levitt?

Jeremy: HitRECord deals with an international community, and accepts contribututions from all over the world. In comparison, The HeartThrob Project accepts only local contributions on our site.

Though we are much smaller, we want to cater solely to the local arts community. Having a myriad of submissions from all over will probably overshadow the brilliance of works and talents found on our site. And we do not want this to happen!

Instead, we envision for local talents to be known because of The HeartThrob Project, because their very works have spoken, because they have made hearts throb. We desire for The HeartThrob Project to be a leading ground for the local arts community to find meaning, comfort and opportunities in life.

PS: How do you feel projects like yours help keep art relevant? Do you feel art serves an “elite” or it is for mass consumption?

Jeremy: Such projects serve as a platform for unheard artists, writers or illustrators. People are naturally attracted to emotions, and there are emotions found in art. Local artists communicate their ideals and emotions through a creative medium of their choice. In fact, with the presence of such platforms, these artists are actually having a larger and louder voice, and this voice speaks, and counsels the masses.

In this manner, we are actually bridging society to the local arts scene, and also enriching cultural awareness in Singapore!

What sets The HeartThrob Project apart is the fact that we aim to develop an interactive online community whereby viewers can provide valuable feedback on the pieces published on our site, and help our contributors to improve their craft!

Art is definitely not for the ‘elites’ or intellectuals. People who claim so, perhaps have never experienced hardship or a sense of trauma in their lives!

To me, art is a form of expression and healing salve; it provides insights into alternate perspectives, dwelling into the depths of emotions, experiences that are portrayed from another great mind. Art is somewhat a form of illumination; our guiding lights out of darkness, out of harsh realities of life. Art heals wounds; sometimes we find words that we struggle to speak in art, or find pictures that describes our predicament in life, and thus we develop a bond with art – one that provides strength and enlightenment to our lives!

Art is really for everyone. Besides, art is everywhere around us. Anyone can find something relatable in art, if they do look hard for it.

All are welcome to submit their work on The HeartThrob Project’s website. Visit their Facebook and Twitter pages to keep updated of new submissions.